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Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence

Representing the 14th District of Michigan

Bipartisan Women’s Caucus Leadership Introduces Legislation to Improve Maternal Health Outcomes for Pregnant Veterans

December 18, 2020
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Today, the Bipartisan Women’s Caucus leadership led by Representatives Brenda L. Lawrence (D-MI), Debbie Lesko (R-AZ), Madeleine Dean (D-PA), and Jenniffer González Colón (R-PR) introduced H.R. 9016, the Delivering Optimally Urgent Labor Access for Veterans Affairs, or the DOULA Act. This legislation would establish a pilot program to furnish veterans with doula support services and to measure the impact these services have on pregnant veterans’ childbirth, mental health, and infant care outcomes. Pregnant veterans disproportionately experience mental health afflictions such as post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety. A 2013 study published in the Journal of Perinatal Education found that “expectant mothers matched with a doula had better birth outcomes than did mothers who gave birth without involvement of a doula.” While women veterans have increasingly been relying on the Veterans Health Administration for maternal health services, doula services are not currently an integrated part of this model.

“High maternal mortality rates in the United States necessitate strident action on the part of Congress to uphold commitments to the women we serve, including pregnant veterans,” said the Bipartisan Women’s Caucus leadership.

“Pregnant veterans must be afforded optimal maternal and mental health care that considers their veteran-specific experiences. The support of doulas has demonstrable positive effects on health outcomes, lowering the likelihood of pregnancy complications which could harm the mother or the child, and will assist women veterans as they navigate pregnancy and childbirth.”

Under the DOULA Act, the Department of Veterans Affairs would be required to administer the pilot program of doula support services, developed through consultation with stakeholders, including veterans’ organizations, community-based health care professionals such as doulas, and experts in promoting equity in health care. The program will provide meaningful support to pregnant veterans before, during, and after their pregnancy.